I don't know what Tony Benn ever actually did- apart from write diaries- but his making of himself into an icon of the left was almost certainly more significant than anything he achieved in office. Ah that puff-puff-puffing of the pipe; ah, that fraternal mug of tea! If we lefties wanted to feel good about ourselves- as the party that was meant to represent us slid into compromise and worse- we had only to think of Tony and his un-spat-upon-ideals and the air cleared and the people's flag was still fluttering above the barricades. To adapt a line of Yeats, "What will we do for diehard reds, now good old Tone is dead?"
First Bob Crow, now Tony Benn. An era in British politics- a not inglorious era- has come to an end.